New US President Barack Obama’s first term in office starts today and he is expected to deliver sweeping resolutions to many key issues. One of those key battle grounds is the argument pitching the major ISPs against advocates of Net Neutrality.
Now, depending on which side of the argument you’re speaking to, this contest could be described in very different ways. The Net Neutrality camp would describe it as the everyman vs. corporate greed. The ISPs would describe it as Internet progress vs. stagnation.
The issue boils down to a familiar question. Is big business more interested in making money than advancing the human condition? The supporters of Net Neutrality would argue yes. ISPs are keen to implement measures that would divide the Internet superhighways into different tiers, where certain tiers perform better than others. The ISPs would control who could use which tiers and they could charge more for those using the fastest connections.
The neutrality camp argues that this amounts to censorship, preferential treatment for wealthier organisations and ultimately denial of the free movement of information. They say it is motivated by greed and is a case of the ISPs putting their own interests before the public good.
On the flip side, the ISPs argue that a tiered system with associated pricing is vital for the continued enhancement of the Internet. They say that without this kind of financial incentive the Internet cannot be extended to connect more people and communities to the web. Furthermore, they argue that technological advancement would be stagnated and with demand increasing all the time this would amount to an actual deterioration of service.
Who is right? Well new President Obama has the power to make a significant impact on the battle. His predecessor George W. Bush seemed to side with the ISPs but Obama is supposedly an advocate of neutrality. He can lead the debate on whether to allow or block the ISPs’ policy in the US.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world, including the EU, must also address the issue in the near future. Capacity needs to be expanded to accommodate the new video age and someone has to pay for it. But who?